The day has arrived. A day George Gund III and Gordon Gund visioned back only 9,524 days ago. Back then, the brothers would be granted an NHL expansion franchise in the Bay Area. At 5pm their dream will be realized as the city of San Jose will host it’s first Stanley Cup Final home game. For long time fans, years of torture, pain, heartbreak are hopefully disappearing.
Unfortunately, Team Teal has played two stinkers in the National Hockey League’s championship series. That being said, they’ve been in both games, losing either three minutes left in the game or three minutes into overtime. Getting blown by the Penguins’ speed, or inability to get any puck possession going, or even able to establish their game. Just hasn’t worked out.
For Game 3 the Sharks are hoping a change of scenery will be helpful as they work to the ultimate goal, which is in their reach. When talking to Sharks Head Coach Peter DeBoer on Thursday, he mentioned that the team was limited to their success due to Penguins’ ability to reduce their “time and space” and was looking forward to having the last change, but Pittsburgh giving challenges on their lines. “Crosby, Malking, Kessel on three lines gives us matchup issues.” If that’s the case perhaps you go to the four headed center monster? Going with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, and Chris Tierney could pose similar issues for Mike Sullivan’s Pens.
Then of course there’s the concern for Tomas Hertl. The top line winger sat out of practice on Friday for a “maintenance day” and is a “game time decision” for Game 3. I’d be shocked if he isn’t playing. If he is out, look for Melker Karlsson to assume his role from last season on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.
San Jose is still a confident bunch. “I think our Game 2 was better than our Game 1,” Joe Thornton said after practice on Friday. “We’re looking for Game 3 to be better than Game 2. We know this series is far from over and we’re looking to win tomorrow.”
And many Sharks are looking forward to the energy that’s been pent up from fans for years. “It should be loud, it should be exciting,” Sharks defenseman Justin Braun said. “I’ve heard this building loud in the past and it’s going to be up a notch. It will be fun to have that experience, first Stanley Cup Final game here .It’s a huge thing to be a part of and they’ll help us out.
“Get that extra energy, that boost. When you hear that crowd going when you come out of the shark head. If you can’t get up for that one you got something wrong with you. It will be a fun feeling.”
Fans have a full day of excitement planned. The city is hosting “It’s Happening!” San Jose Celebrates Rally Cesar Chavez Plaza, Downtown San Jose (194 S. Market St.) from 12-6pm. From 2-4pm, the team is hosting a street rally on Autumn Street (renamed Stanley Cup Drive) with the game at 5pm. Doors to the Shark Tank will likely open at 3:30pm. Fans will receive the most they’ve ever been given to a playoff game. All fans will get the LED wristband, a teal playoff shirt, and a “Sharknado” rally towel. If there was ever a time to do a TEAL-OUT, today would be it.
For Pittsburgh, no lineup changes expected. Chris Kunitz and Patrick Hornqvist received power play time with the first unit. “I don’t think we take anything for granted,” said Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. “(The Sharks) have been an unbelievable team all year, and they’re going to respond. They’re going to come hard at us in their building. We just have to answer by playing a smart game and play the right way, play the way we’re capable of.”
The Sharks are 7-2 at home in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year. And while down 2-0 in the series, the history is against them. Home teams have won the first two games 36 times since the Cup Final went to the best-of-7 format in 1939. Those teams went on to win 33 times. Two of those instances have occurred in the last seven years. The 2009 Penguins erased an 0-2 deficit to Detroit and won in seven games. 5 years ago, Vancouver blew a 2-0 lead and lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7. It is doable.